By 1980, the first government-owned, all-inclusive resort opened in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
The following year, and without any hotel experience, the founder of Sandals Resorts, Gordon “Butch” Stewart, saw an opportunity and purchased an old hotel on one of Montego Bay’s largest beaches. Stewart approached this business with a simple philosophy he articulated many times: “The winning formula is to find out what people want, give it to them and, in doing so, exceed their expectations.”
Seven months and US$4 million in renovations later, Sandals Montego Bay opened to couples in love everywhere, as the flagship of the most popular award-winning resort chain in the world. Stewart has never laid claim to starting the all-inclusive concept or couples-only format but he has captured the title of “King of All-Inclusives” by continuously innovating and by steadfastly adhering to his “We can do it better” principle of pleasing his guests.
Where other so-called “all-inclusives” offered meals and rooms at a set rate, Sandals Resorts’ prices cover gourmet dining options, premium brand drinks, gratuities, airport transfers, taxes and all land and water sport activities. The competition meals were buffet-style, so the resort created on-property specialty restaurants with high culinary standards and white-glove service, to further enhance the romantic atmosphere the resorts were known for. Sandals Resorts was also the first Caribbean hotel to offer jacuzzis and satellite television service, the first with swim-up pool bars and the first to guarantee that every room is fitted with a king-size bed and a hair dryer.
In late 2004, the company launched yet another first in the all-inclusive industry: butler service. Through a partnership with the London-based Guild of Professional English Butlers, Sandals Resorts ensure that guests in top-category suites enjoy unrivalled pampering and luxury with their own personal butler to take care of their every need throughout their stay.
The Red Lane® Spa was also created and is available exclusively at Sandals Resorts and sister brand, Beaches Resorts, which offer the same luxuries and amenities for families and all travellers, not just couples. In addition, partnerships with notable companies such as Beringer Vineyards, which introduced delicious wines, wine-centred entertainment and education, and superior wine service standards at all resort locations, have continued to redefine the guest experience at Sandals Resorts.
This spring, Stewart again revolutionized the destination wedding industry as Sandals Resorts announced “Your Wedding. Your Style,’’ a completely customizable destination wedding programme. With a new online interactive tool, the Sandals Destination Wedding Designer, brides and grooms can now select every element of their wedding ceremony and reception to ensure that their day truly reflects their taste and style as a couple.
Some other notable milestones in Sandals history include
‚Ä¢ Year-round occupancy of more than 85 per cent and a repeat guest factor of 40 per cent.
‚Ä¢ Sandals Resorts International boasts nine resorts in Jamaica; three in Saint Lucia, three in The Bahamas, two in Antigua and one in The Turks & Caicos Islands
‚Ä¢ Expansions that include a US$70 million Mediterranean Village at Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa and a US$125 million Italian Village at Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa.
‚Ä¢ The opening of Sandals Emerald Bay, Great Exuma, Bahamas in February 2010, offering 245 beachfront room and suites and the first resort to offer a Greg Norman-designed championship golf course and world-class marina.
‚Ä¢ A US$60 million renovation of Sandals Grand Riviera Beach & Villa Golf Resort in Ocho Rios, Jamaica in 2011.
‚Ä¢ The grand opening of the recently refurbished Balmoral Tower at Sandals Royal Bahamian in 2012
‚Ä¢ The Sandals Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the company, was created in 2010 and brings together all of the resort company’s efforts to better the communities where they operate in three areas: education, environment and community service.
With all this in the works, who knows what is next for the Sandals Resorts brand but the way it’s going, the next destination can only be up.